Owner of food charity for homeless pleads not guilty

Chow Train operator Joan Cheever cited for violating city ordinance


SAN ANTONIO – The operator of a charity called the Chow Train pleaded not guilty in Municipal Court Tuesday to charges that she violated a city ordinance by feeding the working poor and homeless with food she prepared in her mobile kitchen.

"I just cook hot, healthy food for people in the community that need it," Joan Cheever said as she left the courtroom.

She asked for a jury trial and the court complied, setting her case for trial on the Sept. 23 docket.

Cheever's mobile kitchen is licensed but the truck she uses to tow it and serve food is not, according to the city. She was issued a citation in April while delivering meals in Maverick Park.

"They said that there's only one place to feed the homeless and that is the Haven for Hope," Cheever said. "But you really can't force people to go where they don't want to go."

The city ordinance is intended to channel all social services -- such as meal distribution -- to one central location.

Prominent San Antonio attorney Stephanie Stevens is handling Cheever's case pro bono,

"I think her chances are very good," Stevens said. "I think that there are a lot of other citizens who will agree with Ms. Cheever and be proud of people like her."

While she awaits her trial this fall, Cheever says she will be out on city streets and in parks every Tuesday night.

"I'm just going to continue to cook and serve," Cheever said.

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